United have been through the frustration of an abandoned fixture quite recently, when an ever-hardening surface at Harrogate during a particularly cold spell brought a first-half call-off and, let’s face it, you have to be really unlucky to face the same kind of situation again, as the Blues did at Blundell Park on Tuesday night.
The game in Yorkshire two seasons ago lasted just shy of 10 minutes, but the Grimsby outing tonight was, if we’re honest, fortunate to get to kick-off, let alone give an increasingly resigned crowd 27 and a bit minutes of action, with persistent heavy rain turning to large pools of water in just about every area of the pitch.
“I don’t think there’s any doubt about it, the ref had to do what he did,” manager Paul Simpson said. “I’ve got to say that I was concerned right at the start. When I saw the water over it when we got here, and then the groundsman was out with his little squeegee machine, it was all coming up and making a wave as he was doing it.
“Let’s be fair, it wasn’t safe out there. It’s a lovely surface, but we’re talking about weather that’s such a contrast from where we were last Tuesday and on Saturday. It was roasting and dry then, and now it’s soaked.
“The safety of the players has to come into it and, in all honesty, I think the fans realised that as well. There was no booing, which you normally get when a match is abandoned, and I think the supporters know that it could have been farcical and very dangerous very quickly.
“We’ve already got enough injuries and I don’t need any more. When Fin [Back] was challenged in the corner, I thought that was a really bad challenge in the conditions, and that’s when you worry.”
“The ground staff tried their best to clear it and then, just after they tried to get rid of the water, I think it stopped three times over on the far side and you could tell it was over,” he added. “Jack Armer had to go into a challenge when it got stuck in front of him.
“Their wide right man went on a run and it stopped again, and that’s when it’s a farce to watch. Suddenly it’s not a proper game of football.
“That’s why it was a totally sensible decision and one that both benches agreed with. They were probably more keen to keep playing because they were on top at the time, but we move on, get home and prepare for Saturday. We’ll obviously be back here whenever the next available date is.”
At around about the midway point of the half the referee called a halt, but appeared to tell the coaching staff from both clubs that he was giving it another 10 minutes, with fingers crossed that conditions would ease.
“I think we knew when the squeegees came out that it was struggling,” he confirmed. “But honestly, you could see at the start of the game that it was struggling.
“When you see rollers being used before you kick off it’s a concern. I asked the groundsman if it was waterlogged and he said – yeah, it might be.
“He was having a little panic because the rain wouldn’t stop. The pitch is a great surface, but it’s really firm, so there’s quite a bit of clay underneath, or maybe not as much drainage as it possibly needs.
“Tonight isn’t anybody’s fault, this is just our weather and there’s not too much you can do about it. It was going to be a different kind of challenge, with it not being in the sunshine, but it has to be safety first.”
And, adding to the through process for referee Simon Mather, was the relentless nature of the downpour.
“The forecast said the rain was due to stop about 10pm,” he told us. “I don’t know how long we’d have had to wait in the changing room, I think pneumonia might have set in among the players because they came in off the warm-up and were absolutely drenched.
“I really do think the referees have a really tough job to do, but I think it was the most sensible decision. The lads said when they were warming up it wasn’t great.
“When Mick Kelly was in goals for the shooting drill, he said it was horrendous. They could feel it. They were all up for the game, they were really looking forward to it, and I felt it was going to be a real big test of our personality.
“I thought we stood up to it for however long the game went on for. It’s just one of them things. And it wasn’t calming down, it’s actually got worse.
“I think the groundstaff have done everything they possibly could. But they were fighting a losing battle. If it had stopped and they could have got it off, maybe we had a chance.
“But you just have to look now. I don’t know how long we are since the game finished but it hasn’t let up and it looks like it’s coming down for a bit longer.”
“It’s something I’ve been through before,” he concluded. “I remember being a player at Oxford and we had a nice short journey up to Newcastle and it got abandoned.
“Again, there’s nothing we can do about it, we’re in a fantastic country, I love England, but this is the consequences of our weather.”
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